It is there at the beginning of each day, and again at its end, like a home you’ve always known. It unfurls like a ribbon through mist and glare, rising and falling to the shifting tenure of the weather, a place of processionals sung by skylark and peewit and plover. And when it slips like a knife between sheeting rains it carves open the invisible moors, showing us the way, taking us alongside stone walls still standing after centuries alone and past hedges twined like lover’s arms, or over stile and amber brook, where rushing floods rinse the hill-colours away. But always there, on the horizon or behind us, a line unwinding in the distance.
Grooved by long and repeated passage, the path follows ancient rights of way, tracks in the past service of packmen and peddlers, miners and monks. It is the road of old community, knotting together a parish of lone outposts. What men and women, I wonder, have graced these earthen veins, looked up to see the same darkening hills and meadows flush with buttercups, felt the warm edge of a storm upon skin, the slanting grey showers racing across a valley to overtake them. What men and women have leaned forward over the ages, buried their shoulders into a northeasterly to forge ahead with their lives, following a line unwinding.
What is a path but a line never arriving, wending and weaving like the way of a river, or the wind that sways through lush summer woods? What is a path but the mind unloosening, let free to find a home of its own, to sheer clean like a scythe through barley and rye, or push grasses aside beneath glowering skies, to be one with our feet and grounded in earth?
What is a path but the steps that we take?